Going Further than Food and Shelter

  • December 11, 2017

At just a year in, it’s hard to imagine Cal State East Bay without the Pioneers for HOPE program. Students regularly stop by the three pantries located at the Hayward and Concord campuses for access to food and personal hygiene products. Faculty and staff support drives for items such as shampoo and other toiletries. And students living in the dorms consistently donate their leftover meal tickets to feed their hungry peers.

But now, thanks to a $400,973 grant from the Stupski Foundation, which is devoted to addressing hunger and creating opportunities for underserved students in the Bay Area, Cal State East Bay will be able to go further than just meeting the urgent needs of the university’s food-insecure and homeless students. In the coming years the campus will be focusing on creating the long-term strategies at-risk students need to not only complete their degrees but become leaders in their communities.

Provost Edward Inch is principal investigator on the grant, and Sarah Taylor, associate professor of social work, is co-investigator.

“At the strategy sessions we held [in November], participants described [the term] ‘student success’ as [meaning] much more than retention and graduation,” Taylor says.

“Although we all agreed that we would like students to graduate, many people also expressed a desire for our alums to contribute meaningfully to their communities [and be] engaged global citizens,” Taylor says.

With those goals in mind, Taylor says setting students up for success is going to take more than making sure they are fed and have a roof over their heads. Examples could include creating a student ombudsperson position so students have a confidential place to seek advice. Another idea is specific opportunities for low-income students to access jobs and internships, and planning volunteer days for them to serve in the community.

“It’s essential to use an approach that supports students in their broader life goals, which means going beyond helping students to meet their critical needs.”

“It’s essential to use an approach that supports students in their broader life goals, which means going beyond helping students to meet their critical needs,” Taylor says.

In the first year of the grant funding, Taylor and Inch will conduct a “needs assessment,” which will help them understand the characteristics of the students who are at risk for food insecurity and homelessness, or have other emotional and academic needs, and how that relates to their overall success. At the same time, they will be researching best practices from around the country and explore how those might be applied to students in need at Cal State East Bay.

During the second year, Taylor and others will apply the data they collect to a pilot program that tests and evaluates strategies, and also conduct campus education workshops. According to the Stupski Foundation, the organization awarded grant funding to the Pioneers for HOPE program in part because of the university’s data-driven approach to tackling food and housing insecurity.

“The Stupski Foundation is excited to partner with the Pioneers of Hope program,” Parag Gupta, vice president of the Stupski Foundation says. “It is a groundbreaking effort to address the more invisible challenges of food insecurity students face in their academic career.”

Several faculty and staff members participated in securing the grant, including Grants Strategy Officer Susan Wageman, Dean and Key Project Advisor Maureen Scharberg. Project Coordinator Ali Jones-Bey was hired a few weeks ago to support the project. 

Taylor says that teamwork and receiving the grant is a nod to the progress Cal State East Bay is making in serving all students, and she’s looking forward to creating a long-term plan.

“I think this grant is a recognition of the work the university is already doing to support student success while helping us to build and expand innovative programs that will give more students the opportunity to meet their academic, career and personal goals,” she says.